Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oh, Fuuuuudge.....

It's rich, thick, creamy, and perfect for sending in Christmas packages. (Make it just a few pieces, or your family will be left drooling futilely at the rich chocolatey odor.)

Basic Chocolate Fudge

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus butter, or cooking spray, for pan
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 4 ounces bitter chocolate
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Lightly butter or spray with cooking spray, a 9-inch square pan and set aside.
In a saucepan combine the sugar, salt, corn syrup, bitter and semisweet chocolates, and milk. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Once mixture comes to a boil, do not stir. Any crystals that form on the sides of the pan may be removed with a pastry brush dipped in cool water. Cook the fudge at a boil until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 238 to 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of butter. Cool to warm.
Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat with a wooden spoon until creamy. Pour into the prepared pan and cool completely before cutting into squares. Store fudge in an airtight container.

(Editor's notes: I'll skip the almond extract, but vanilla is essential in this recipe. Cut the sugar down to 2 1/2 cups -- you won't miss it. And chopped nuts, plus a handful of dried cranberries add a delicious grace notes.)

Then there's Paula Deen's
             Dummy Fudge
(You're smart to try it!)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans (any type of nut will work)


Butter a 9 by 9-inch baking dish

Melt chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and condensed milk in double boiler on medium heat. Once smooth remove from heat. Add vanilla and nuts. Scoop into baking dish and chill in refrigerator until set for approximately 10 minutes.

(See here for the whole shebang. Or just abandon yourself and try all 30-plus fudge recipes from the Food's for a good cause!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pie Week: No One Can Say You're A Turkey!

...because you frugally used up the last dribs and drabs of that roast turkey in a crunchy, delicious


  • 1 recipe pastry for a (10 inch) double crust pie
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Roll out bottom pie crust, press into a 10 inch pie pan, and set aside.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add the onion, celery, carrots, parsley, oregano, and salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the bouillon and water. Bring mixture to a boil. Stir in the potatoes, and cook until tender but still firm.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the turkey and flour. Add the milk, and heat through. Stir the turkey mixture into the vegetable mixture, and cook until thickened. Cool slightly, then pour mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Roll out the top crust, and place on top of filling. Flute edges, and make 4 slits in the top crust to let out steam.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and continue baking for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. 

(Thanks to for sharing this recipe and photo -- go to the link for more versions.)

Another meat pie possibility: The tourtiere, or pork pie --Quebec's favorite answer to "what to eat on Christmas Eve." A great recipe and step-by-step diagram is here. If you've got any Canuck, or French Canadian blood running around in your family tree, this is a perfect choice for a holiday brunch!

The classic tourtiere. (Yes, it can be done as 'hand pies,' too.) Go to the link above for specifics.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pie Week: The Nuttiest Of Them All - Pecan

The Brick would never think a Thanksgiving dinner complete without a slice of pecan pie. It brings back memories of his North Carolina home, with rhododendron bushes and warm breezes. (Plus a big scar in the closet, where brother Jim decided to start a fire. Inside the house. No matter - it matches the hole punched in the wall by the brothers wrestling. My poor mother-in-law.)

Making your own "pay-kan" pie is surprisingly easy -- just a few ingredients, stashed in piecrust. Shelling your own pecans will ensure the nuts are fresh. I also rely on butter, rather than margarine - you really can taste the difference, and the extra calories are negligible.
    This version is courtesy of the Pecan Pie Recipe website, which has a whole boatload of variations. I still tend to stick with the traditional one, though -- the Brick insists on it. 


Ingredients -
4 Eggs
1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
pinch of Salt
1/3 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice or Vinegar    (or a shot of bourbon, whiskey or Southern Comfort)
4 tablespoons melted Butter
2 teaspoons Vanilla
2/3 cup Pecan Halves
1 (9-inch) Unbaked Pie Shell
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. 2. Carefully crack eggs In a medium bowl, slightly beat eggs with fork.
3. Add corn syrup, salt, sugar, lemon juice or vinegar, butter, vanilla and mix well.
4. Stir in pecan halves.
5. Pour pecan pie mixture into an unbaked pie shell.
6. Bake 35-40 minutes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pie Week: Chocolate Cream Pie

At our church's Thanksgiving supper last night, the gorgeous chocolate pie on the dessert table lasted for about 5 min. Fortunately I'd seen it earlier -- because there were nothing but delectable-looking crumbs left.
    No matter. I can bake my own Chocolate Cream pie, thanks to King Arthur Flour. For more, including tips on baking this pie even better, visit the King Arthur website.
 They know what they're doing!




  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 2 cups milk


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, and salt.

2) Cut in the shortening until it's in lumps the size of small peas
3) Dice the butter into 1/2-inch pieces, and cut into the mixture until you have flakes of butter the size of your fingernail.
4) Add the water, two tablespoons at a time, mixing with a fork as you sprinkle the water into the dough
5) When the dough is moist enough to hold together when you squeeze it, transfer it to a piece of wax or parchment paper. It's ok if there are dry spots in the pile. Use a spray bottle of water to lightly spritz these places; that way you'll add just enough water to bring the dough together without adding too much or creating a wet spot
6) Fold it over on itself three or four times to bring it together, then pat it into a disk 3/4-inch thick
7) Roll the disk on its edge, like a wheel, to smooth out the edges. This step will ensure your dough will roll out evenly, without a lot of cracks and splits at the edges later. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling
8) To blind bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan that's at least 2 inches deep. This will make serving the pie easier after it's finished.
9) Roll out the pastry for the pie to a 13-inch circle. Transfer it to the prepared pan, and trim the edges so they overlap the edge by an inch all the way around. Tuck the edges up and under, and flute them. Put the lined pie pan in the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes.
10) Line the crust with foil or parchment paper, and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and gently remove foil or parchment with the weights or beans. Return the crust to the oven for 10 more minutes, until it's golden brown all over. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
1) Place the chopped chocolate, butter, and vanilla extract in a 2-quart mixing bowl; set aside.

2) In a medium saucepan away from heat, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt. Whisk in 1/4 cup of cold heavy cream until the mixture is smooth, with no lumps. Repeat with another 1/4 cup of the cream. Whisk in the egg yolks
3) Place the saucepan over medium heat, and gradually whisk in the remaining cream and milk.
4) Bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the mixture thickens; boil for 1 minute
5) Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture over the reserved chocolate and butter.
6) Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
7) Pass the filling through a strainer into a bowl to remove any lumps.
8. Place plastic wrap or buttered parchment paper on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and chill thoroughly.
1) Place the heavy cream in a chilled mixing bowl.

2) Whip until the whisk begins to leave tracks in the bowl.
3) Add the sugar and vanilla and whip until the cream holds a medium peak.
1) Transfer the cooled filling to the cooled, baked pie crust. Level the top with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.

2) Spoon or pipe the whipped cream on top.
3) Chill the pie until ready to serve.
Variation: Meringue topping
3 large egg whites (reserved from filling)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) water

1) Place the egg whites in a clean bowl with clean beaters. Add the pinch of salt.
2) In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
3) Whip the egg whites until they turn white and the whisk begins to leave tracks in the bowl. Slowly add the hot sugar syrup, and continue beating until the whites make stiff peaks.
4) Preheat the oven to 400°F.
5) Pipe or spoon the meringue over the top of the filled, chilled pie, making sure you cover the filling completely.
6) Place the pie in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the top of the meringue is golden brown. Remove from the oven and refrigerate until ready to serve

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pie Week Begins - With Apple

Pies were made long before the first colonists stepped onto America's shores; we brought our love for meat, veggies and crust with us from our English, Irish and Scottish forebears, as well as many other countries.

It's no wonder then that pie has become a favorite of many holiday tables, including mine. One favorite I grew up with is often considered the king of fruit pies: apple. Our Michigan pies bulged with slices of Macintosh fruit. (Or Granny Smiths or Winesaps, if you liked your pie tart.) Try this recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour, and your apple pie will mirror a long line of tradition.



  • 2 1/2 cups Perfect Pastry Blend or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
  • 7 to 10 tablespoons ice water


  • 8 cups sliced apples
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup boiled cider or undiluted apple juice concentrate                                                          (I'd delete this - makes it a bit too juicy)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, diced in small pieces
  Take a look here for step-by-step instructions, plus photos, to walk you through to your perfect pie. 

Editor's Note: We'll be featuring different pie recipes for the next week, including pork pies, chocolate cream, Key lime and that prince of the south, pecan! (Pronounced "pay-kan," according to the Brick, whose North Carolina roots come out strong this time of year.) Be sure to visit regularly, and see what's up...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Want a cookie that has practically everything going for it? These handfuls of chocolatey/nutty/fruity goodness are actually good for you, too. They're adapted from a cookie recipe that's supposedly from Mrs. Fields. I don't think so, but I experimented some more, then served up the results to the Brick while he was absorbed in the Broncos game. Only a few minutes later, he yelled, "These cookies are TERRIFIC! What's in them?"

Hey, if they can compete successfully with Tim Tebow, that's saying something around here. 

(because they can contain everything but the...)

Turn your oven on to 375 degrees. Mix together in a very big bowl:

2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
5 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla
4 cups flour  (heaping measures, if you live in higher altitudes)
5 cups oatmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

The easiest way to deal with this pile of ingredients is to wash your hands and dig right in. (A mixer works, too, but you can work out a lot of issues by just squeezing and punching this dough.) Mix thoroughly, taking special care to break up the butter and evenly distribute it through the dough. The dough will be somewhat grainy. (Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of water if it seems too dry.)

Look through your cupboards. Is there fruit going to waste? How about a leftover chocolate bar, or a handful of walnuts? Any of these are fair game for this recipe, including raisins, chopped dried apricots, chopped-up candy, chopped nuts, etc. You'll need approx. 4 cups of chocolate (chocolate chips, chopped bars, etc.), 2 cups of nuts and 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit.  My version used chocolate chips, smashed-up almonds, dried cranberries...and the crushed leftovers from a box of Trader Joe windmill cookies.

Mix these extras into the cookie dough. Shape fist-sized balls; approx. 6-8 will fit on your ungreased cookie sheet. Bake approx. 15 min., or until the cookies are slightly flattened and turning brown on the top and bottom. Shovel off, let cool...and try to restrain yourself from eating a dozen or two.

Makes approx. 3 dozen large cookies. 


A Week of Pies!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Snicker What?!?

Snickerdoodles! The name's silly, but these crunchy, cinnamon-sugar rolled goodies are anything but. And they're incredibly easy to make. Try them hot out of the oven, accompanied by a glass of milk.

CLASSIC SNICKERDOODLES   (makes 40-48 cookies)

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar, the eggs and the vanilla. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls.
  3. Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. Remove immediately from baking sheets.

(Cook's note: these freeze beautifully, either as baked cookies or balls of dough. In the case of the latter, wait to roll them in cinnamon-sugar until they've thawed a few minutes. Then proceed as usual.)

See the snickerdoodles on the plate in the previous post, accompanied by their chocolate chip buddies.

Got a favorite cookie you can't find the recipe for? We're hot on the trail! Just leave a comment, and the Christmas Goodies staff will go into full bloodhound mode. (Plus we'll put Charley the dog's famous sniffing nose to the task.) Found recipes will be featured in upcoming posts.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies - The Workhorse of the Cookie Jar

Chocolate Chip -- people love them. Yet this cookie has a fairly recent origin, compared to its sweet brothers and sisters. In the mid-20th century, the manager at the Toll House Hotel was making cookies -- but had nothing to put in them but chocolate bars. Rather than melt the chocolate, she chopped the bars up into little bits and stirred them into the cookie dough. Voila: a new classic. This is her original recipe:


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts


PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

PAN COOKIE VARIATION: Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

dough as above. Divide in half; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Shape each half into 15-inch log; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.* Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

* May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks.

FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (5,200 feet): Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.

     Editor's note:   I live at 6250 feet, and don't make these adjustments -- but I DO use heaping measurements of flour, which seems to solve the problem. Also, cooling the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking keeps the cookies from spreading too much. 

For more tips and tricks on making this terrific cookie, check out Stephanie Vardovas's "secrets of really good chocolate chip cookies."

A nice plate of chocolate chip cookies is nothing to be sneezed at. (The recipe for the Snickerdoodles accompanying their choc chip buddies is coming soon.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pumpkin Pie...Oh My

If any one pie transcends Thanksgiving, it's pumpkin -- made from squash, one of the few vegetables the Pilgrims could manage to grow in their short seasons, and store for the winter. Sometimes old-time cooks would make a dozen or so pies, then box them up and leave them to freeze in an unheated shed. Pulled out and baked, they made any fall evening special. (We recommend you use a freezer, instead!)
   (Thanks to Land O' Lakes for getting it started)


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold Land O Lakes® Butter
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water


2 eggs
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup milk (if you like your pie sweeter, add condensed milk, instead)
1 (15-ounce) canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, and a dash of cloves
    (or just stick to the cinnamon or nutmeg)
1/2 teaspoon salt


Heat oven to 425°F. Combine flour and salt in large bowl; cut in butter with pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in enough water with fork just until flour is moistened. Shape dough into ball; flatten slightly.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface into 12-inch circle. Fold into quarters. Place dough into ungreased 9-inch pie pan; unfold, pressing firmly against bottom and sides. Trim crust to 1/2 inch from edge of pan. Crimp or flute edge. Set aside.

Beat eggs at medium speed in large bowl until thick and lemon-colored. Add all remaining filling ingredients; beat until well mixed. Pour filling ingredients into prepared crust. Bake for 10 minutes.

**Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.

To serve, top each serving with dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle with additional ground ginger, if desired.

(Freezes up to 6 months - bake without thawing, starting here**)

And try the original recipe here, along with a Ginger Whipped Cream addition

Welcome to the Kitchen!

Gee, I'm glad you're here. 

Think of this blog as your spot to find some of the best dishes of the holidays -- and since they're on the way and breathing heavily at the door, we're going to start with Thanksgiving and Christmas. I plan to pass on some of the best recipes out there, plus some family secrets of my own, and others.

I was lucky to come from a long line of wonderful cooks. My grandma's family was the stuff of DARhood, in New Hampshire, but she married a Michigan mailman and farmer. Grandma had her own chickens, though, and a thriving egg business. (She also sold fruit and vegetables from the farm, as well as Queen Anne's Lace wildflower bouquets picked from the nearby ditches.)

Grandma's table was famous among the threshers who visited at harvesttime, including her masterful fried chicken, New England-style baked beans, and sturdy apple pies. I have fond memories of visits to her house....and cooky jar, filled with hermits and applesauce gems.

My mom learned from her, and picked up some new twists, thanks to a friendship with a Californian who also happened to be Hispanic. We were eating tacos and tamales at a time when, in our neck of the woods, at least, it was considered "foreign" food.

I was lucky enough to learn from both Mom and Grandma -- and others, as the years have gone on. Now I want to share these wonderful dishes with you, too.

Let the fun begin!